It was the darkness that first met my gaze. A thick blanket that shrouded everything, including my mind, as I collected my first thoughts of this year .
It took a moment to sink in. 40 feet above ground, suspended between branches of a jamun tree in a dense 300 acre of wild and awakened by a montage of cries that you will probably never hear in the confines of your bedroom. And the only human to share this experience was my husband, sleeping . What a way to welcome the new year !
We are one of those people who like the word different and love to make it a part of our every day’s experience. A human weakness, I would say – to wear our different experience on our sleeve, feel good about it and occasionally pat our back saying that we did something ‘different’. A stereotype that redefines stereotypes.
And so, we began our new year with a different experience . Far from the madding crowd. We drove down from Chennai via Bangalore-Mysore to reach Masinagudi, which is 30 kms near Ooty to our base camp . A 10 kms drive through wild tall grass and dusty mud roads with the Nilgiris for company took us to a 300 acre property aptly titled Wild Canopy Reserve. The trees created the canopy and the wild here included a variety of fauna from langurs to elephants to leopards .
It was dusk when we approached and we were greeted by a very excited group who had come to inspect the spot . Tigers and elephants punctuated their conversations and we stopped to hear their story.. Arms gesticulated wildly and animated conversations ensued when they reported seeing a herd of wild elephants at a small pond nearby. Nothing unusual, we thought , until we were told that our tree house is beside the pond.
More information came in, there are things that web sites do not tell . That, there are not many of the human variety staying there . A couple of tree houses dotted the reserve and yes, it is so secluded that you cannot view the one tree house from the other .
We were shown our wild retreat- a tree house built with bamboo tucked away in the branches of a 80 year old jamun tree, An exquisite piece of nature, designed by man. The hues of twilight came and went as we climbed the rope ladder and as night descended, we saw the first glimpse of our tree house . aided by moonlight.
Small and quaint, it came with a petite balcony, an awesome bathroom with hot water and a double cot with a comfortable mattress. And an open view of the jungle and life, as seen from the top ! This, we realized was the heights of exuberance . The view became blurred until it merged with the darkness . We sat in the balcony and took in the moment . A pregnant silence gave way to the murmurs of the forest as we meditated on the sounds .
A twig cracked and with it, came light- not the dawn, but a solar lamp which we were told would last precisely for four hours. We slept the last day of 2004 , atop a tree .
It was not the dawn of the new year that awoke me, but the darkness and with it, the sounds and I’m back to where I started this journal. I lay silent, imagining the fauna around me and doing a mix n match of the various cries. And that’s when it happened. A violent jerk, a strong smell and an exuberant cry. We leapt out of our bed to see if we had visitors . My solar light had died and the moonlight was not sufficient to trace the whereabouts of our early morning visitor. We spent the time till dawn sitting in the balcony, afraid to see if our intruder has occupied the bed. We were told later that there were langurs in the tree , above our house , exercising their limbs in full glee .
It did not end there. We realized that we had more visitors that night, except that they were courteous enough to leave us undisturbed. The ponds were filled with deer and elephants ,peacocks and more colourful birds ( an adjective to clothe my ignorance) who had come to quench their thirst and thus the morning montage of sounds. There were a few wild elephants, I was told who had created quite a rampage in the property and had tried to cut through our electric fence . A watchman had been a witness to this and so this is not my imagination speaking.
We decided that we needed more of those close encounters and hence went on a safari which led into a trek as well. The wild animal eluded us as we came close to a tusker whose destructive trail we had followed. Bamboo shoots, footprints and plenty of dung were our clues for this treasure hunt. We seemed to be doing badly. At one time, it even shouted out to us an encouraging call and the scent was so distinct , but we were just not destined to get a glimpse of it. We limped back our way to the tree, defeated in this game between man and beast , while the animal, I’m sure had the last laugh as it has been seeing us all the way !
Adventures over, we climbed our way up 40 feet to reach our haven , to spend the last few moments living with nature , in silence. We were there, on top of the world , at least for that minute, until reality brought us down to earth . But one thing was sure, we were destined to reach those heights last year
PS : While this experience is more than 3 years ago, I thought the moment was right to post it as another year is soon on its way ! I have been many times to Masinagudi, which is worth a post itself !
Masinagudi is a border town and can be reached from either of the three southern states . From Tamil Nadu, the closest airport is Coimbatore at .140 kms..and the farthest is Chennai at 575 kms . From Ooty its about 36 kms . If you are driving like us from Bangalore, its a distance of 260 kms .and 106 .fm Mysore and it takes about five hours . From Kerala, the closest airports are Kochi at 212 kms and Kozhikodu at 123 kms . Vythiri in Wynad is 93kms away . An ideal weekend getaway from any of these cities, Masinagudi is closest to Mudhumalai wild life sanctuary at 15kms and Bandipur at 25 kms . Buses are a plenty from Coimbatore, Mysore or Gudalur ( a town enroute to Bandipur from Mysore) but the roads at some stretches are bad.